Birdy Spotlight – Hornbills

Written by Josh Caraballo, Animal Care Professional

Hornbills come in all shapes and sizes here at ZooTampa! Several species of hornbills are in our care from the smallest Red-billed hornbills like Zazu from the Lion King to larger ones like Great Indian hornbills. These birds are a unique group for a couple of different reasons. For example, their first two neck vertebrae have been fused to support their large bills – whoa! They are also known for their nesting habits. The female will “mud” or seal themselves into a tree cavity with help from their mates, leaving only a small slit through which the male provides food. She will remain sealed inside the nest for 3-5 months depending on the species.  During this time, she will completely molt and re-grow her feathers. When the chicks become large and the nest becomes crowded, the female will break out of the nest, reseal it and assist the male with feedings. The chicks will break out of the nest when they are ready to fly.  At this point, the parents will teach them how to eat and hunt on their own to become completely independent.

Great Indian hornbills are found scattered throughout their range on the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. The abundance of this species tends to be correlated with the density of large trees, required for nesting, and are most common in unlogged forests. These birds are 37-50 inches long with a large, lightweight casque –a helmetlike structure on top of the bill. Their plumage is boldly patterned in black, white and yellow. The yellow comes from a preen gland that is located at the base of their tails. They rub their bills on this gland and spread the yellow oil on their feathers. The male typically has a larger casque, red iris and black around the eyes and frontal area of the casque. The female's irises are white-light blue, with red skin around their eyes and no black on the frontal portion of the casque. Great Indian hornbills face many threats in the wild including deforestation, poaching, and the illegal wildlife trade.

ZooTampa is a member of The Association of Zoos and Aquariums or (AZA) and we participate in Species Survival Plans (SSP) for four hornbill species. Programs like the SSP are a way for zoos and aquariums to help protect and preserve this, and others, species for future generations.

While we have SSP programs in place for some hornbill species, their wild cousins like the Helmeted Hornbill are in need of our help as they have become Critically Endangered in a matter of a few years. They have a solid casque, unlike most hornbills that have hollow casques and are hunted for their casques to be carved into trinkets which are sold on the black market.  ZooTampa is committed to wildlife conservation efforts locally and globally. Through grants from our conservation fund, we work with our partners to help protect and preserve various hornbill species in Africa and Asia. You can help your feathered friends by visiting the Zoo and our Great Indian hornbill in the Main Aviary.

A Stunning Bird with a Stunning Surgery

Written by Dr. Lauren Smith, Veterinarian

If you’ve seen our Bird of Prey show at the Zoo, chances are you saw one of our shining stars - a red-legged seriema named Elton. He shows off the unique way he stuns his prey by using his beak to repeatedly slam prey items like small snakes on the ground. Don’t let the wispy beautiful feathers, long red legs and eyelashes of a seriema fool you - these stunning birds are effective predators!

As you can imagine, quick reaction time and visual acuity are essential for Elton’s daily life. The animal care team noticed his right eye appearing red and swollen, they also noticed he would misstep when walking to his habitat. The animal care team quickly notified the veterinary team to assist, both teams work hand-in-hand to give the best care to animals.

As part of the veterinary team at ZooTampa, it is our responsibility to work with the animal care team to examine animals for any health concerns. During our initial examination, we found that Elton had a maturing cataract of the right eye that affected his vision. Just like humans, animalsare also at risk for cataract formation which affects their vision and ability to carry out daily tasks. Fortunately for us, we knew of options to best help Elton recover.

We contacted Dr. Tammy Miller Michau of BluePearl Veterinary Specialists for a consultation. Dr. Miller Michau is a board-certified veterinary ophthalmologist with specialized equipment to perform this surgery. After several evaluations and discussions with the animal care team, we agreed that cataract removal surgery was the best option for Elton. There were a few things to consider before performing surgery in a case like Elton’s:

  • The unique anatomy of the avian eye
  • The ability to properly administer eye drops post-operatively
  • Keeping Elton’s stress level down before, during, and after the procedure

A big part of my job as the Veterinarian is to make a diagnosis, evaluate the options and risks, make recommendations based on what we know, and compose a plan to address all of the above. Following a positive health assessment, the veterinary and animal care team worked to outline the plan before, during, and following Elton’s surgery.

In June, Elton was taken to BluePearl Veterinary Specialists for surgery. The ZooTampa veterinary team safely anesthetized and prepared Elton for Dr. Miller Michau to operate on his eye. Imagine the skill and precision required to make a tiny ocular incision through a microscope! Ryan, a veterinary technician with ZooTampa, and I focused on Elton’s anesthesia and vitals, while Dr. Miller Michau removed the cataract and sutured the eye closed.

Dr. Miller Michau informed us of potential risk, including infection and/or dehiscence (break down) of the sutures. It was important that just as much care went into recovery as it did during the surgery itself. Over the next few days, the animal care team worked closely with the veterinary team to ensure Elton received his eye drops for his eye to heal properly. Within two to three days, we could already tell that his vision improved on the right side and he was much more responsive when approached on his “blind side.”

One week later, Dr. Miller Michau returned to ZooTampa for follow up. Post-operative medicine compliance had been going well, and we hoped the hard work would pay off.  As Dr. Miller Michau evaluated Elton’s eye, we were elated to hear her say, “This looks amazing! And so clean!” She checked his eye pressure and performed a stain test to rule out any corneal ulceration - all clear!

We are currently in the final phases of Elton’s recovery and he continues to do fantastically. He is due for another check up with Dr. Miller Michau with the hope of being fully healed.  Once his eye doctor gives him the go ahead, Elton will be back to being an absolutely stunning bird!

A Little Florida History, Y’all

Roaring Springs presented by Pinch a Penny is the all-new, family water adventure that plays an homage to the old Florida way of life. Who better to write about that than our friends at the Tampa Bay History Center?

Tampa ‑ the Cowtown of the Cuban Cattle Trade

The ancestors of many founding families in the Tampa Bay area were "cowmen" or "cowhunters."  Interestingly, the term "cracker," now sometimes used to describe native Floridians, was probably borrowed from the Florida cattle trade.  Florida cowhunters cracked eighteen-foot rawhide whips to drive cattle down the trail.  They were so adept with these whips that they could flick horseflies off an animal's hide without breaking the skin!

In his travels, Tampa entrepreneur and ship captain James McKay learned of a huge demand for beef in Cuba.  By 1858, McKay was organizing regular cattle drives from the interior of Florida to loading stations on the Interbay Peninsula southwest of Tampa.  The venture made him a very wealthy man as the Spanish paid him in gold doubloons.

Tampa quickly became the railhead for cattle shipments to Cuba.  Cowhunters and their ponies were a common sight on 19th century Tampa streets.  "The effect of the opening of this trade is witnessed daily," noted the Florida Peninsular in the July 28, 1860 issue.  "Thousands upon thousands of dollars are thrown into our midst, and as a necessary consequence other branches of traffic and industry are proportionately enhanced."  William B. Hooker, who had pioneered the Hillsborough cattle industry in the 1840s, owned 10,000 head by 1860 and was considered the "Cattle King of Florida."  He was soon joined by other cattle barons: James Alderman, John T. Lesley, and Jacob Summerlin.

Written by Rodney Kite-Powell, Curator of History - Tampa Bay History's Center


Florida Cattle

Contrary to popular belief, Florida, not the American West, was the site of the first North American cattle industry.  Juan Ponce de León brought a herd of Andalusian cattle to Florida in 1521, long before the first Spanish expedition brought them to the American Southwest.  By the 1700s, Spanish vaqueros had established large cattle ranchos in Northwest Florida.

The "golden age" of the Florida cattle industry began in the 1850s.  Despite predators like wolves, panthers, bears and alligators, thousands of wiry cattle thrived in the tall brush of the unfenced interior.  By 1860, Florida "cowhunters" routinely rounded up herds from the Florida brush and drove them to ships in Hillsborough Bay for sale in Cuba.  Although there was little demand for tough and lean Florida beef in the U.S., Cubans had few cattle and were willing to pay premium prices.

Beef for the Confederacy

During the Civil War, Jacob Summerlin provided 600 cattle a week to the Confederate Army at $8 per head.  However, his job was complicated by the reluctance of Florida ranchers to part with their cattle in exchange for almost worthless Confederate currency.  Hearing of a round‑up, the cattlemen would drive their herds into the brush to avoid the Confederate contractors.  At times, they even sold cattle to Union forces and later reported them stolen.  When Summerlin could no longer round up enough cattle to meet the demand, the Confederate Army cancelled his contract and gave it to James McKay.  Despite many challenges, McKay and his men managed to provide Confederate forces with some cattle throughout most of the war.

A Cattle and Shipping Empire

The cattle industry played a major role in the Tampa Bay economy after the Civil War.  Cubans still wanted Florida beef and the Florida cattle industry was still intact.  At first, most Florida cowmen were reluctant to sell to James McKay and the other shippers, hoping to receive a better price.  They gave in and sold after a Peninsular newspaper story chastised them for stalling the state's economic recovery.  Profits from the first postwar shipments eliminated any further reluctance.  During the decade of the 1870s, 165,669 head of cattle were shipped to Cuban ports at nearly $15 per head.

A Tampa Bay shipping industry grew out of the cattle export business.  This business expanded to include citrus, phosphate, tobacco, bananas and other commodities.  The Tampa Bay sail and steamship trade was dominated by Dr. Howell T. Lykes and his sons.  In 1874, Dr. Lykes married Almeria McKay, daughter of James McKay.  Dr. Lykes and his sons created a shipping empire in Florida and Cuba that grew into the extensive operations of Lykes Brothers, Inc., and Lykes Brothers Steamship Company, Inc.  While cattle is no longer shipped through the Port of Tampa, it is the 7th largest port in tonnage in the United States.

Pretty in Pink – Roseate Spoonbills

Written by Micah Carnate-Peralta, Animal Care Professional

During the first few months of 2018, we traveled to various locations around the globe learning about different avian species to celebrate the Year of the Bird, as well as highlighting the numerous victories that were achieved by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA).  For the month of May, we will traverse to our own backyards, the Florida wetlands, to explore and behold the beauty of the Roseate Spoonbill!

Named after their bright pink plumage and oddly unique bill structure, Roseate Spoonbills (Platalea ajaja) live a simple coastal and shallow-water life.  You will find these birds in their natural range - around the Gulf of Mexico, several Caribbean Islands, and parts of South America when they migrate during winter to breed.  Many people often mistake these rose-colored birds for flamingoes due to their similar colors; however, if you take the time to look closer, there are significant differences between the two species.  For comparison, Roseates average around 3 feet in length with a 4-foot wingspan and do not have long necks or legs like flamingoes, but the one outstanding difference that sets the roseate apart from everyone is their bill shape!  As the most notable part of their body, their bill is long with a rounded spoon-like end. It is specialized in the fact that the spoon part of their bill possesses nerve endings that aid in the search for food in shallow murky waters.  While foraging for small crustaceans and fish, the roseate will wade in the water with its spoonbill submerged swaying its head from side to side.  When something bumps into their spoonbill, those sensitive nerve endings will alert the bird that there is food and it will then consume its prey.  By eating their favorite foods, such as shrimp, crabs, and crayfish, the spoonbill will be filled with an organic pigment called carotenoids, which will then give their feathers a lovely rose pink color!

Although their feathers are beautiful to see, the past was not so beautiful for the Roseate Spoonbills.

Long ago, Roseates were plentiful along the gulf coast of the United States, stretching from Texas to southern Florida.  However, in the late nineteenth century, fashion highly demanded for Roseate Spoonbill feathers, which were used for decorating the tops of women’s hats and fans.  The upsurge in hunting for these rosy feathers caused the spoonbill’s population to severely decline, hitting an ultimate low in the 1930s with only about thirty breeding pairs while constricting their breeding grounds to small islands in Florida Bay. With the help of the MBTA in 1918, Roseates were protected from any further hunting, allowing for the population to recover. Furthermore, the state of Florida provided additional protection for these birds through Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule of 1977 declaring that we must  “conserve or improve the status of endangered and threatened species in Florida to effectively reduce the risk of extinction.” Through the perseverance, dedication, and support of these two laws, the spoonbill population’s status rose from Endangered to its current standing of Least Concerned according to the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) and deemed Threatened by the state of Florida.  Even though their story is currently progressing in a positive direction, Roseate Spoonbills still endure continuing threats that they must fight through to survive.  Such threats include habitat loss and disturbance due to human encroachment, pesticides that collect in their waters and food, and illegal hunting. Combating these threats may appear to be a daunting task for the Roseate Spoonbills, but they will always find support from their friends at ZooTampa!

Here at ZooTampa, the Aviary Department is dedicated to the conservation of our native birds, especially the Roseate Spoonbills. Through the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), Roseates are designated as a Species Survival Plan (SSP) species, a plan which ensures that the current Roseate Spoonbill population in zoos and aquariums will be genetically viable and sustainable for long-term survivability through carefully managed breeding of the birds and cooperation between participating institutions. Under our care, we have our own colony consisting of seven Roseate Spoonbills and you can find them in our Florida Aviary, located in the Florida Realm of the Zoo! You may even see them building and sitting on nests! Since they are native to Florida and if you enjoy birding or bird watching, you may also spot them in the trees of surrounding areas of Tampa Bay like Fort De Soto Park, Lettuce Lake Park, and Circle B Bar Reserve.

How can you help birds like the Roseate Spoonbills that call Florida home?

  1. Reduce single-use plastics to save birds and other wildlife from ingesting the trash that pollutes our planet.
  2. Visit our lovely Roseate Spoonbills and check out their pretty feathers and unique bills for yourself!

By visiting the Zoo, you are one step closer to helping the Roseate Spoonbills, as well as our mission for the conservation of these species and other animals around the world!

Next Generation of Elephant Management Workshop at ZooTampa

Written by General Curator, Chris Massaro

On May 18th, ZooTampa hosted the Next Generation of Elephant Management (NextGEM) workshop. This three-day event brought elephant care professionals from around the nation together to learn from each other’s successes and address challenges in the community in order to collectively advance elephant welfare.  NextGEM was the first workshop offered for elephant care professionals to focus almost entirely on improving elephant psychological wellness through progressive, behavioral management strategies. The workshop attendees came from diverse backgrounds including universities, sanctuaries, and many zoos.

Presentations included several accomplishments in the field such as advancing bull elephant socialization and management, international travel for improving care and practices abroad, and successes achieved through positive reinforcement training. It was truly an incredible experience to be a part of a community of professionals from many different backgrounds, perspectives, and philosophies, but all united for elephants around the globe!

We were honored to be chosen to host NextGEM due to our program achievements and commitment to advancing elephant welfare. Why are workshops like these so important? This workshop focuses more on animal welfare than conservation. ZooTampa and their partnering institutions are working together to provide elephant care professionals with the latest strategies for improving the lives of elephants living in the care of people all around the globe.

ZooTampa would like to thank their partnering institutions, the NextGEM presenters and all attendees for their contributions, achievements, and dedication to advancing elephant welfare and helping to secure a bright and sustainable future for all elephants!

Country Store Shoppin’

With the brand-new family, water adventure Roaring Springs opening up, we wanted to give y’all an exclusive sneak peek at the new store where you’ll be able to shop for your favorite local goodies! You’ll go wild at the Country Store for the items that include the most unique Florida finds.

If you are buzzing for something sweet, don’t worry! We have the best honey in the state from Kelley’s Apiaries. Kelley’s offers nothing but pure, raw, unfiltered honey with a variety of flavors including orange blossom, local wildflower, palmetto, and holly. With this honey, you can add a little sweetness to your life!

Got Milk? Goat milk that is!  The Country Store will be selling goat milk soaps from Sunflower Soaps. The soaps are made with ingredients and oils with our skin benefits in mind and are handcrafted in small quantities with fresh goat milk from their own herd of Nubian dairy goats.

Another great local find at the store are the Florida salt scrubs - specially crafted in South Florida. These sea salts contain pure mineral-rich sea salt crystals collected directly from the waters of the Atlantic Ocean. While you’re scrubbing away, you can add to your pampering with one of the handmade natural soy candles from Cantara Candles. These candles are eco-friendly, allowing the candles to burn cleaner and longer without polluting your home with toxins and carcinogens. These products make for the perfect spa day in the comfort of your own home!

Add to your Florida lifestyle with all these items, plus more, at the Country Store near Roaring Springs!

Four Extremely Rare Red Wolf Pups Born at ZooTampa at Lowry Park

By Jennifer Galbraith, Animal Care Professional – Florida Mammals

Red wolves are a species that once inhabited the entire Southeast region including Florida. Red wolf populations were decimated in the early part of the 20th century due to habitat loss and predator control programs. Today, they are critically endangered, with only around 200 red wolves remaining in zoos and reintroduction areas. ZooTampa at Lowry Park recently debuted a new red wolf habitat designed to give guests an up-close view of these incredible animals. Red wolves are known for being reclusive and shy with varied colorations, making them almost invisible in their natural environment. However, with the habitat’s new floor-to-ceiling windows guests have a great opportunity to catch a glimpse of these incredible animals.

The Zoo recently introduced a young pair of wolves with the hope that a new generation would soon follow. Our female wolf, “Yona” which means “Bear” and our male, Apollo named after the mythological Greek God who was said to derive from a wolf are both three years old. The introduction took place in early December and the pair quickly became comfortable with each other in their new habitat.  Red Wolves form small family packs with just a male, female and their pups.

Valentine’s Day is extra special for red wolves because it falls right in the heart of Red Wolf breeding season. Breeding season starts in January and goes through the end of February with pups being born in March through May. Near the end of February 2018, Yona and Apollo were observed to be breeding. Over the next 60 days, Yona dug a den under the cypress logs in the center of the habitat, and on April 28th the first faint cries of newborn pups could be heard! Two days later it was possible to visually confirm 4-5 pups curled up around mom. The pups are slowly emerging from their den and guests can see them starting to explore their habitat. It appears Cupid’s arrow has hit the mark, increasing the size of our red wolf family as well as the chances of this beautiful animal reclaiming its role in the wild.

Saving a Species: Eastern Indigo Snakes

Written by Lewis Single, Animal Care Professional 

ZooTampa has partnered with the Central Florida Zoo’s Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation (OCIC) to provide a much-needed boost to the wild population of Eastern indigo snakes.  On May 4th, five indigo snakes cared for at ZooTampa were released in the Conecuh National Forest in southern Alabama. Twenty snakes in total were released into gopher tortoise burrows throughout the expansive longleaf pine forest.  It is our hope that these individuals will thrive and reproduce to create a stable population of Eastern Indigo Snakes that will prosper for generations to come.

At ZooTampa, our work with this project is just beginning. Our goal is to breed indigo snakes in Tampa to be released within their historic range to help the threatened Eastern indigo snake make a big comeback in the Southeastern United States.

ZooTampa would like to thank and recognize The Central Florida Zoo’s Orianne Center for Indigo Conservation, US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR), Georgia Department of Natural Resources (GADNR), the Orianne Society, Auburn University, and US Forest Service for all that they have done to make this possible, and for including us in this determined conservation project.

The Bond of a Mom & Baby

MOM. It is a word that makes us think of someone who loves us unconditionally, and who is always there for us. For our babies in Primate realm of  ZooTampa at Lowry Park, it is no different. Watching the interactions between our moms and their babies, it is easy to see the strong bonds that exist between them. Each one is special and different in their own way, and this is evident in the different personalities exhibited by each of the babies.

The Bornean orangutan family is made up of 8 - Goyang, DeeDee, Dira, RanDee, Josie, Gojo, Hadiah, and Topi. DeeDee is the mother of both RanDee and 4-month-old, Dira. For the first few months of their lives, baby orangutans cling to their mother constantly, and Dira is just approaching the age where she wants to explore her surroundings. You can see Dira reach out and touch the other orangutans, or attempting to taste whatever foods DeeDee is eating. Dira doesn’t have any teeth at the moment, but she is showing signs that her first teeth are emerging. She will have “baby teeth” until approximately 6 years of age and then her permanent teeth will grow in. Dira also spends lots of time watching the other older orangutan babies, and is eager to try to do all the things they are doing. DeeDee is a very patient mother, and encourages Dira to practice her climbing skills, and shares her banana peels with Dira so that she can use them for teething. As Dira grows and becomes more independent, she will start to have play sessions with her older sister, RanDee. This will not only help Dira build her muscles and perfect her social skills, it will also help prepare RanDee for the day when she becomes a mom with a baby of her own.

The older babies in the group, Gojo and Topi, are both 2 years old.  They are larger and stronger than Dira, and are capable of climbing all around the habitat all on their own. The older of the two is baby boy, Gojo and he is the most adventurous of the babies. He is often seen climbing at the very top of the habitat, or making his way down to the ground to forage for food. His mother is Josie and is a great mom. She has a way of instilling independence into her kids at an early age, but is always nearby if Gojo ever needs her. However, she lets him explore and try to do new things without her help. Topi is the younger of the two and isn’t quite as independent as Gojo. Her mom, Hadiah, is a first time mom and is much more protective over Topi as a result. She keeps Topi close to her most of the time, and isn’t as eager as Josie to let her venture off on her own. Topi is a very strong willed little girl, and will push the limits to see how far Hadiah will let her go. Under Hadith's watchful eye, she will climb as high as she can or swing on the nearest swing. Topi loves to play with Gojo, and will soon have another playmate once Dira is old enough to join them.

The bond between the orangutan mothers and their babies is one of the strongest in the world.  The babies are completely dependent on their mom for the first several years of life, remaining in very close physical contact with her throughout this time. Mom teaches them everything they need to know to survive and grow up to be a strong, healthy orangutan. This includes everything from what foods to eat to how to build a nest every night to sleep in. A baby orangutan will stay with its mother up to 9 years before it is ready to become independent. That is quite a commitment from mom!

This Mother’s Day weekend, please join us at ZooTampa as we participate in the annual MOM (Missing Orangutan Mothers) campaign to raise awareness of the threats faced by wild orangutans. There are 3 species of orangutans in the world, and all three are Critically Endangered due to loss of habitat, poaching, and the illegal pet trade.  As habitats are destroyed for the development of Palm Oil plantations, orangutans are driven out of areas that were once their homes. Mothers are often poached, and their babies are taken to be sold in the illegal pet trade. The lucky ones are rescued and taken to rehabilitation centers, with the hope of one day being able to return to the wild. There are currently more than 1,000 orphaned orangutans being cared for in rehabilitation centers in Borneo and Sumatra.  However, without their mom, it is very difficult and time consuming to teach them everything they need to know to survive. If it takes an orangutan mother up to 9 years to teach her baby all it needs to know, imagine how difficult this task is for human caregivers. Our orangutan babies at ZooTampa are very fortunate to have such wonderful moms watching over them every day. Your gracious support of ZooTampa helps support the conservation efforts working to save those orangutans in the wild and the daily care of the Bornean orangutan here at the Zoo.

Birdy Spotlight: Waterfowl

Written by Alex Gianetti, Animal Care Professional

This is a very special year for the birders, like me, across the globe. 2018 marks the centennial signing of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act! Many say it’s the most powerful and important bird protection law ever passed. Every month, the Aviary team will spotlight birds who need our help. This month - waterfowl!

ZooTampa at Lowry Park currently cares for a diverse range of waterfowl within the Anatidae family which is comprised of ducks, swans, and geese.

The first bird to be highlighted is the Nene (Nay-Nay) goose, which is the state bird of Hawaii. These geese are unique as they are predominantly terrestrial. In order to trek around on rugged lava flows, the Nene has longer legs and a reduction of webbing between their toes. In the early 1950's, their wild population was estimated to be only around 30 geese in comparison to today’s population, which is in the mid-2,000s. Hawaii has made huge efforts in conservation to preserve and grow the Nene’s population. The protection of their habitat and reduction of predation by both humans and other predators have played an important role in the species revival. Refuges have played an even larger part in the revival of the Nene. Several refuges throughout Hawaii have been so successful in conserving the Nene that over 2,000 geese were reintroduced to the wild in 2009. You can visit our resident Nene goose “Ohana” in the Sulawesi aviary!

Next up is the Hooded Merganser. While both males and females have a crest, these ducks are dimorphic meaning they differ in appearance. Females are generally brown with a short and plain crest, while the males’ crest is large in proportion to their bodies and accented with a large white patch on both sides. The Mergansers’ diet is primarily made up of fish with a smaller portion being aquatic insects, crustaceans, amphibians, and invertebrates. Due to this specific diet, Mergansers have developed serrated bills in order to easily hold on to their prey. Sadly, their population has seen a recent decline due to pollution of water sources and deforestation with pollution being their biggest enemy. Hooded Mergansers are cavity nesters and large-scale deforestation has greatly reduced the number of available nesting locations for them. Although these ducks will take advantage of nest boxes put out specifically to help other wild duck populations. You can visit our pair of Hooded Mergansers, Clarice and Maurice, in our Florida aviary!

Finally, we will highlight the Wood Duck! Their range extends throughout  North America and there is a good chance you’ve seen these ducks in the wild. This species is also sexually dimorphic, with the males exhibiting iridescent green faces and crests accented white stripes as well as bold colors and patterns on their bodies and the females are typically a muted brown color. This species prefers to live in swamps and marshes that have an abundant amount of vegetation for foraging and also for hiding. Wood Ducks have adapted sharp claws that they use for perching in trees. Their population was in serious decline in the late 19th century due to habitat loss and hunting for both their meat and their plumage. However, in response to the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, populations began to slowly recover! Without Migratory Bird Treaty Act, there is a chance that the wood duck would be in serious decline today. You can visit both our male and female woods ducks in the Florida aviary!